21 December 2004-
This day started out as any normal day in Mosul, Iraq on FOB Marez. We were tasked out to provide security for a couple of high profile officers coming to visit our base camp. Our unit had been provided roving mounted security all morning and the guys have now worked up their hunger. We get a call over the radio from Apache 6(CPT Jacobsen-Company Commander) telling us to take it in and grab some lunch before coming back out. As we get into the DFAC(Dining Facility) the smell of wonderful food, the sound of happy soldiers and the look of the holidays. Christmas trees in the corner, lights and garland strung along the walls. Camaraderie was always in high gear. As brothers we sit together, live together, and eat together. On this day, we all sat in the front corner of the dining tent, which sat us directly behind the ING(Iraqi National Guard). Many have asked why we would have allowed Iraqi nationals in an American facility. I think this might still be a very controversial topic. I think it may have been to just gain good relations with the country. As we sat and ate, the dining tent gets louder and louder with more and more people coming in. To tell a little about myself, I personally don’t like sweets nor do I eat them too often. My ex wife use to bake me cakes, make fudge, or even a nice NY cheesecake. All of which would go uneaten. On this day, it was so close to the holidays, I was missing my family. My heart was hurting because it was to be another holiday without my kids. So to take me a little closer to home I decided to grab me a piece of cheesecake. If you remember this DFAC, you would remember that they took pride in making their desserts. These desserts were like you were eating little bits of heaven. Upon my decision to grab some cheesecake, my buddies around the table thought it would be funny to make jokes. We worked out two times a day, every day. One joke I remember specifically was from a few of the guys. SSG Robert Johnson, SGT Ray Khin, SGT Kevin Pena, SGT Jay Pense and my company commander CPT William Jacobsen. I was told repeatedly “you’re gonna get fat Doc” and “I feel sorry for you at the gym tonight”. Regardless of these jokes I got up anyways to get my sugar fix. As I rounded the corner of the table and get to the middle of the tent, I seen a flash from the corner of my eye from approximately 10 meters away. I heard the loudest boom in the history of booms. Immediately, I thought it may have been a rocket or mortar attack. On many occasions, the insurgents would attempt to mortar the base or mortar the tent in which we sat to eat. Normally they would miss, but today it seemed as though they got us. Smoke filled the tent. I was off balance, couldn’t hear, and very disoriented. I dove under the nearest dining table. I seen many soldiers walking around as if they didn’t know what to do. So I did what I knew how. I grabbed their legs and began to pull them under the table with me. I pulled a crying female under the table. I also pulled another soldier, SGT Dennis Patterson, under the table. He was yelling “Doc! Doc! My fuckin weapon! I can’t find my fucking weapon! I got hit in my ass!” I attempted to calm him down and told him. Right now fuck your weapon. Get your ass outta here! On your way out grab someone and help them out. He insisted I look at his wound. I looked and assessed the wound. Seemed like a scratch, small hole in his pants, and no blood. I had to tend to those with life threatening injuries. I finally stood and found myself still dizzy. My first glance of the situation was chaos! I looked around and everyone was walking around like a zombie, some running out of the tent. I see to my left a portion of a lower intestine hanging from a table, I look to the right and see the upper half of an Iraqi torso. I trip over leg lying there still unknown whose it was. That’s when in my mind it was like a light switch. Now all that I have trained for, all the nights in the rain, all the field exercises was all about to come into play. I look down and the first soldier had a spurting femoral artery. I grabbed his belt, tied it around his leg to try and slow the blood from squirting. I grabbed a napkin holder off a near by table, pulled all the napkins out and stuffed them in his bleeding leg. I grabbed two guys and told them get this guy the hell outta here and I moved on. Prior to our deployment everyone was trained on our CLS(Combat Life Saver) skills. So everyone knew the basic lifesaving techniques. I ran through the tent guiding different soldiers through treatment. I end up back at the table where I was sitting with my brothers. I see the guy that sat behind me, slumped over his table with a piece of shrapnel through the back of his head. Now the thought runs through my head, “was that shrapnel meant for my head”? I then look down and see SGT Pena performing CPR on another soldier. I get down to help him out, trying to find out where this soldiers injuries are. I grab my knife and start cutting off the clothing of this unknown soldier. As I get to the top, I notice Captain rank. Now I think to myself I have to get this officer resuscitated. I’m still cutting and I notice the name tape- JACOBSEN. Now I piece this all together. 1. Sitting where I was 2. CPT rank 3. JACOBSEN. This is my company commander! I feel for bleeding, I feel for wounds, I try to come to some conclusion on why my company commander is lying on the floor needing CPR. I can’t seem to figure it out. We resume CPR as I help SGT Pena get started and tell them to get CPT J to the CSH(Combat Support Hospital). We flip over a table and use it as a make shift litter or gurney. I continue to clear the tent out as all that are left seem to be the deceased and others trying to help. Now was the time for me as the senior company medic to take accountability of all the solders in my company. I make a call to the unit and tell them to get a proper count of all soldiers while I go to CSH to and see if we have any wounded or dead.
I get to the hospital and start going through exam rooms making a list of my guys. At this time there are several large “booms”. We are now under a mortar attack. A mortar hits the roof right above where I stand. I drop to one knee and start balling like a baby. A nurse seen me on the floor, she picks me up, she sits in a chair and hugs me. You can see her maternal instincts kicking in as she coddled me and assuring me that everything is ok now. I was now feeling reassured that it was going to be ok. This is when I went outside and had to open body bags to get my accountability. I found four different bodies that were familiar to me.
By this time, we had already got word about the bombing attack. This was found to be a suicide bomber. He was dressed as a soldier with the ING. He strapped a vest with explosives onto himself; he wore a backpack filled with ball bearings. At the end of this attack there were 22 killed and 72 wounded.
I will never forget this day. This day is what I know as the day of hell. To all my brothers that have lost their lives on this day and to all of my brothers that have lost their lives in this war, you will never be forgotten. To all the families and friends that also lost a loved one, you are in my prayers always. Rest in Peace brothers: CPT William Jacobsen, SSG Robert Johnson, SPC Johnathon Castro, PFC Lionel Ayers.
SGT Edward Montoya Jr
US Army, Medic
~Deuce Four Infantry~